RISC enabled a revolution in small, efficient, and cost-effective processors and helped create our modern, connected world. But in the years that followed, a handful of companies dominated the processor scene. If you need a chip for a new device, your only real option is to hope you find something close to what you want ready from somewhere like Texas Instruments or Renesas. Designing a complete chip from scratch is so complex and expensive that few companies have the resources to do so.

One of the big limiting factors here is the core processor code; Instruction set, or ISA. The development of a new ISA is a massive endeavor, and few, like ARM and x86, are dominating the chip landscape. What RISC-V does is provide a tested, functional ISA who wants to. ISA is also designed to be tweaked, with “extensions” that can add functionality, allowing engineers to pick and choose the features they need.

Even with the ISA standard, designing a new processor is a huge undertaking, but many of the companies supporting the RISC-V project, including giants like Western Digital, have also been open source for their chip designs, letting others modify or use them. Or, new firms could contract with a company like SiFive, which is a startup that builds custom-made RISC-V processors.

There are still a lot of ways this project could go wrong – funding draining, development issues, and security flaws, just to name a few – but if it succeeds, RISC-V can lower the cost of developing a new segment and help companies of all sizes build processors. They need exactly. Check out our full video for more information.

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